Posts Tagged ‘ronnie hess’


Photos: Malcolm Greenaway

April is National Poetry Month. I know quite a few poets, and I truly value the way they capture feelings obliquely and more deeply than common speech. In fact, at my sister’s memorial service in January, I read my friend Ronnie Hess‘s poem called “What We Scarcely Know,” from her collection Ribbon of Sand about a childhood on Fire Island. The theme of sand repeatedly washing away and returning in a new form really spoke to me. What poems speak to you?


Photo: Wisconsin poet Ronnie Hess

Rhode Island poet Nancy Greenaway has been bringing a love of poetry to her community and to students on Block Island for decades. Recently she told me, “For National Poetry Month, I usually organize a reading of favorite poems by community members who are not poets: a ferry captain, a police chief, a teacher, a real estate broker, a minister, a doctor, a guitar-playing student, a gift shop owner, a first warden [something like a mayor], a manager of the power company, for example.

“We had scheduled the Voices from the Village reading for April 24, but cancelled because of COVID 19. Instead, we are asking community members to email favorite poems to their friends during the month of April. I’ve received two so far:
Wendell Berry’s ‘The Peace of Wild Things‘ and Kitty O’Meara’s ‘And the people stayed home.’ ”

Nancy’s email inspired me to search online for articles about past Voices from the Village events. This is from the Block Island Times, May 2018: “The annual community poetry reading known as Voices from the Village featured a wide range of voices reading the works of many different poets:

“Here is the poem by [former first warden] Edie Blane’s sister, Eileen Lee, titled ‘Block Island Spring,’ from Jan. 31, 1962.


Photo: Malcolm Greenaway

“Spring doesn’t come to our bleak island home

“With whispering air and fragrant smell of earth.

“Ours is a different world —

“Grey, cold and harsh,

“And April days are angry with us still.

“The equinox comes in with windy roar;

“Pale dune grass dips and rises in its path.

“Seas crash

“White crested and dark shining green.

“The sun is bright but gives no pleasant warmth.

“And yet we have a portent, old as time,

“Though cold winds rule us yet, with icy breath;

“A day of quiet comes —

“The Sound grows still, a pale and milky blue

“The smallest waves lap gently on the shore.

“In the great echoing stillness on the sea

“The sweet slow tolling of the buoy rolls in.

“At last, this is the long awaited time,

“First sign of island spring.”

See all the Malcolm Greenaway photos of the 2018 readers here. And for inspiration from Nature, check the photographer’s website, here.

I’m wondering if a group poetry reading could be done virtually, the way these singers handled the old-time spiritual “Down to the River.” Looks complicated.

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Ronnie Hess

Two people I know got attention for their writing this week.

Ronnie Hess, a friend from childhood summers on Fire island, won a 2015 Hal Prize from Write On, Door County, Wisconsin, for a story about Tina Hess, her mother. “Judge Michael Perry awarded the prize to ‘The Red Shoes,’ ” says the nonprofit’s website.

The mission of Write On, by the way, “is to facilitate and promote writing in Door County by nurturing the work of writers, supporting readers and audiences, and developing opportunities that encourage broad participation. …

“Write On received our nonprofit status in January, 2014. Since then, over 100 programs have been offered, reaching over 1,000 people in every portion of the county and beyond.” More here. And you can read Ronnie’s essay here, starting on p. 48.

In other news, poet Kate Colby, a friend of Suzanne and Erik, got a Publishers Weekly (PW) star for her latest collection, I Mean.

Says PW, “The book’s parts function in tandem as tools via which the author, in various degrees of obsession, contextualizes and re-contextualizes her life, her experiences, and her work: ‘I mean the walls/ are braced/ against themselves// I mean brace yourself// I mean to take the house down/ with its own components.’ ” More from Publishers Weekly.

Although I can’t use everything, I am interested in posting excerpts from your poems or your other writing. Feel free to send something small to suzannesmom@lunaandstella.com.

Kate Colby

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I admit I dropped the poem-a-day e-mail from poets.org because I couldn’t keep up, but I saved a few that I liked recently.

This one by Alberto Rios, for example.

“One river gives
Its journey to the next.

“We give because someone gave to us.
“We give because nobody gave to us.

“We give because giving has changed us.
“We give because giving could have changed us. …

“You gave me blue and I gave you yellow.
“Together we are simple green. You gave me

“What you did not have, and I gave you
“What I had to give—together, we made

“Something greater from the difference.”

Read the whole poem here.

Meanwhile, poet friends have been busy capturing present realities and past screen shots. Ronnie Hess wrote a poem inspired by watching home movies of her Fire Island childhood. It reads in part,

“follow your sister
“as she leaps and cartwheels along

“the beach into the sea. I see your eyes
“follow her, your mind dart,
“your body imitate her older moves.” The whole poem is at Quill and Parchment.

And poet Nancy Greenaway caught the mood of our endless winter with this roll-over-and-go-back-to-sleep nugget

Sleeping In
School vacation: time for winter hibernation.

Photo: svsnowgoose.com

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My friend Ronnie is a former broadcaster, a poet, and a food maven, who lived in France for years and later wrote a book called Eat Smart in France. Recently Ronnie interviewed the mystery writer Cara Black for a blog called My French Life. Black writes about Paris. Her latest novel is Murder in Pigalle.

Ronnie asks, “What drew you to this part of town?

Black: “There are two worlds in Pigalle. The world of the day with families and people who work in the shops, and the world of the night, where people work in the clubs. …

“I really like Pigalle. I discovered so much I didn’t know. [But] I get intrigued by different districts, their flavor and feeling. If I ever figure them out, I’ll probably stop writing about them.” More of the interview here, including a observations on the German occupation of Paris during WW II.

For a wonderful, unusual book with the occupation of Paris as a setting, I recommend Léon and Louise. It’s an odd love story taking place over many decades in France, written by a Swiss and translated into English. I haven’t read many books by Cara Black, but if you like novels that teach you something about a different part of the world in a rather fanciful way, I recommend Léon and Louise, by Alex Capus.

Photo of Ronnie Hess

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I’ve been on one of my periodic murder-mystery splurges, with a couple mysteries this month that take place in France.

Books about France should never be read on an empty stomach — there is always wonderful food.

The author of The Crowded Grave actually went overboard, I thought, stopping urgent action to prepare elaborate meals. I think The Bookseller mystery will maintain a better balance. So far the hero has only had pastries and lovely coffees on route to something actually related to the story.

Thinking about France makes me want to point out a website where my friend Ronnie Hess blogs, My French Life. Ronnie lived in France for years working for CBS and more recently wrote a guidebook called Eat Smart in France that taps her her deep knowledge of French food.

Ronnie was already a fine cook as a teenager, when I recall making a Scripture cake at her house:

  • 3/4 cup Genesis 18:8
  • 1 1/2 cup Jeremiah 6:20
  • 5 Isaiah 10:14 (separated)
  • 3 cups sifted Leviticus 24:5
  • 3 teaspoons 2 Kings 2:20
  • 3 teaspoons Amos 4:5
  • 1 teaspoon Exodus 30:23
  • 1/4 teaspoon each 2 Chronicles 9:9
  • 1/2 cup Judges 4:19
  • 3/4 chopped Genesis 43:11
  • 3/4 cup finely cut Jeremiah 24:5
  • 3/4 cup 2 Samuel 16:1
  • Whole Genesis 43:11

Her mother helped us think through what was meant by leavening and certain more arcane references.

Do check out Ronnie at My French Life, here.

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What makes you happy? The bluebird of happiness brushed a little air current toward me today as I crossed over a bridge at lunch. So I can report that one thing that makes me happy is seeing the jellyfish arrive in Fort Point Channel on a sunny day in late June.
I remember being ridiculously happy at the sight of Fort Point Channel jellyfish some years ago on a Boston visit that broke up a three-year landlocked Minneapolis sojourn. Minneapolis had its points, but it didn’t have jellyfish. Jellyfish naturally lead to thoughts of 25 summers on Fire Island and going with my father at dusk to shine flashlights on glowing blobs in the water along the boat dock.
Two poets share many Fire Island memories with me. Poem 1 is by my sister Nell. Poem 2 is by Ronnie Hess, now based in landlocked Wisconsin. I offer the conclusion to Ronnie’s “Dinner at the Shish Cafe,” and you may read the whole poem here.
1. May 1986

Now the island belongs to the deer

And the birds and the wild bayberry flowers


And the workmen

Wearily riding the ferry,

To work on other people’s houses,

Carrying their tools home at night.


There’s no honeysuckle

Yet rimming the streets

And the crown-vetch sliding through

Rips in the concrete

Has no pink buds


And the rain is like tears

Over the fog-filled ocean.


What brush, what watery ink

Has painted this sky

The color of bruises?


2. My husband says listening to poetry is hard work. Poems are dense.
Sometimes, I let him read mine. He sits quietly. He studies them.
He edits in blue ink in the margins, he writes words like
Good, nice image, not quite right, and meaning unclear.
Those lines of Ronnie’s remind me of the ever ironic poet Marianne Moore, who wrote of her beloved art, “I, too, dislike it.” By which she meant, I think, that it was hard work.
More poetry by Ronnie is here and here.

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